Hello! With spring blooming outside our windows and summer soon to come, everybody is in a good mood. But what if you despise all those happy-go-lucky human beings out there? Here’s a countdown of 27 manga if you want to get into the gloomy mood.
(Note: This list excludes titles that every one knows and have read, for example: Tokyo Ghoul, Umineko, Elfen Lied, School Days, Mirai Nikki, and so on, and so forth. This list also excludes anything that falls into the ‘death game’ genre: Doubt, Kami-sama no Iuutori, Dead Tube, Mousugu Shinu Hito, etc.)
As you go down the list, the manga gets more depressing, so don’t be disappointed by the soft-core stuff you see right at the beginning.
- Black Rock Shooter : Innocent Soul
In the empty space between life and death called “Hazama”, the Black Shooters keep peace by defeating bad spirits. Black Rock Shooter, or “Rock” in this manga, is one of them. Surprising truths wait to be discovered about the world though.
Personally, I think this one is worth a read. It has a completely different plot from the Black Rock Shooter anime, being fantasy and all. I absolutely love the artwork.
- Milk Closet
Kids have been disappearing, and those who came back had strange tadpole-like animals stuck to their butts as tails. These tailed children’s job is to fight and protect the universe. Sounds cheesy? Wait till you read the actual thing.
This manga is weird, but written by the same person who wrote Alien 9, I should’ve seen it coming. Expect a lot of shape shifting, deaths, fusion, and unexpected ending.
- Sekai no Hate (The End of the World)
What is considered a murder? Can you get away with murder? Can it be justified? A weak girl and a bullied boy struggles with this in this manga.
Beautiful artwork, depressing story, not your typical shoujo plot. Usually there’s shoujo with rape, bullying, murder, and all that, but something about this manga sets it apart from all those competition. Even my friend who loves dark gory stuff got really into this.
- Oboreru Knife (Drowning Knife)
Natsume moved from her hometown in the city to a tiny town where she met her ‘little god’, a boy called Kou. Things start to go down the hill one unexpected night where the relationship between her and him takes a turn for the worse…
Only a portion of the manga is scanlated, and I couldn’t buy it anywhere, so I only got the plot up to that point. What I love most about this is how serious the artist takes her job.I have never seen this style before, and I love it. The artwork helps set the mood and the comedy is done just right. Even though I say there’s comedy, Oboreru Knife tears the frame of what a shoujo is like in many people’s mind.
- Shinobi no Kuni
The strongest Shinobi (you could call them ninjas) is stuck in a war trying to find money for his beautiful wife. I can’t really say anything because you have to read it for yourself.
Again, nice artwork. The story is a page-turner, nice balance of drama, action, and comedy.
- 7 seeds
The world has ended. In the landscape covered with unusual dangerous lifeforms, a group of young adults found themselves in a battle for survival. Why are they here? Who sent them here? What does it mean that they are humanity’s last hope?
Initially, I was going to pass this manga because I didn’t like the art. (Silly, I know.) But, I decided to give it a chance and bam, we hit it off. 7 Seeds is very intense, and even though it skips from group to group, the way the mangaka present her characters made them memorable.
How far will you go to be beautiful? Kasane is an ugly, ogre faced girl constantly bullied and sneered at by all those around her. She has nothing in common with her gorgeous mother besides the talent in acting. Her mother left her a tube of lipstick as a memoir, and told her, kiss the thing that you desire. What Kasane desires most is…
I saw this manga come up on Imagine-nation on NHK World, so I decided to give it a try. Man, that was quite a trip. The idea of combining face-swap with intense drama is enjoyable, and I loved every chapter.
- Usotsuki Mii-kun to Kowareta Maa-chan (Liar Boy and Broken Girl)
A short manga about former kidnap victims who go on to commit their own crimes. It ended leaving some questions unanswered but I think letting the readers think for themselves is probably for the best.
Fetish is an intense love or obsession of a specific thing. You’ve probably heard of all those fetishes in Japanese pop culture, like swimsuit or cat girl fetishes. So if the fetishes of these people are not that common, then what would you think about them?
Fetish is…disturbing. That’s all I’ll say.
- Shin Angyo Onshi (Blade of the Phantom Master)
Munsu is the last ‘Angyo Onshi’ (or Amen-osa, if you’re reading the Korean version). These are royal inspectors travel the land disguised as commoner in order to punish corrupted government officials. The thing is, Munsu’s country already collapsed and most of these royal inspectors are useless. His motives for continuing his job remains unclear. After he met his partner ‘Sando’ and the servant ‘Bang Ja’, he finds that his past will eventually catch up…
As far as I know, this has the same author and artist as Defense Devil, but Angyo Onshi is way more serious than that. The pacing is really slow at first, you might think that it’s going to be episodic forever. But, once you hit a certain place, the drama and intensity all rain down on you like arrows. Even though the last chapter was a bit rushed, the ending was worth all the time reading those 75 chapters. Seriously. Stick to the end.
- Tokyo Akazukin
Little Red Riding Hood has no other desire than to be eaten by Mr. Wolf. She carries a huge gun around and is willing to murder anybody who is not her Mr. Wolf.
The plot kind of goes on into strange places. If you love mature content, then this is the right manga for you. The last few chapters are a bit rushed but that is to be expected from this genre.
- Kagerou Inazuma Mizu no Tsuki
Oiran are high ranked courtesans that work in the red light district, mostly Yoshiwara. This volume has four short stories that often end up in tragedy.
The main theme of the story is “lightning, heat haze, moon reflection on the water” which could be interpreted differently. It basically comes down to this: desiring things that are near but cannot be touched. I think this story did a good job telling the tragedies of women working in prostitution. They have no voice, no votes, no nothing. Only money and customer satisfaction matters. There’s only two shady scenes, don’t worry about it.
A fifteen years old girl got pushed by her boyfriend to get intimate, and out of bad luck, someone spotted her. Now, her happy school life turns upside down as the class started calling her names and bullying her to the extent where she could not come to school. Her only ‘vitamin’ is drawing manga.
I heard that the author of this manga was previously bullied herself, so the story shows what goes through inside of a bulled kid’s head. The worst is that nobody tries to help her (in worst cases abandon her), until the very last parts. (that mom scene from Lookism popped into my head for some reason.) In my opinion, Vitamin reflects a bullied girl’s story very well. It didn’t go overboard, but got it done enough for the emotional impact and the realization that this kind of thing happens.
- All You Need Is Kill
You could call it the manga version of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (the live die repeat thingy). Kiriya Keiji is yer ordinary noob soldier who goes into battle against alien invaders called ‘Mimics’. On his side, the ultimate killing weapon Rita Vrataski. What sets this apart from others in the same genre is that our protagonist is stuck in a time loop where he has to repeat the day he died over and over again.
The manga (same artist as Death Note) really shows the anguish and the huge changes Keiji went through while looping the battle over and over. From a newbie to a killing machine, we get to see how war impacts Keiji. The few heartwarming scenes here and there really adds to the overall emotional impact of the manga. From what I’ve heard, the movie’s got a different ending. I haven’t seen Tom Cruise play Keiji yet. Might have to get to it someday.
- Vinland Saga
Thorfinn seeks to avenge his father by traveling in the same mercenary troop as the dude who killed his dad. From all those battles, the young viking became a heartless killer. He ended up in the middle of a war for the crown. At the end will it be his victory, or will fate throw him into a path of redemption?
You probably read this manga for the fist 56 chapters, but I’ll tell you that what you people call “Farmland Saga” is the main focus. The battles and gore at the beginning is just an elaborate prologue to the theme of the story: take the “first choice.” Vinland Saga has artwork that evolved from ordinary to how-the-heck-did-anyone-manage-to-draw-this-within-the-deadline, and story that makes you question the validity of Bleach and Naruto. I started reading this because I thought it was similar to Ubel Blatt, but the depth of the theme is far deeper than any action manga I’ve ever read.
12. Watashi-tachi no Shiawase na Jikan (Our Happy Time)
Just so you know, this manga has nothing to do with happy time in restaurants. One of the most sophisticated romance out there, Watashi-tachi no Shiawase na Jikan tells the story of hope and acceptance. Juri is a former pianist who attempted suicide multiple times, and Yuu is a prisoner who killed three people. Together, their scarred hearts continue to hope and look forward to their next ‘happy time’.
My first reaction after finished reading is to sit there and think while my heart sobs quietly. I don’t really like romance of this type but this one gripped my heart and never lets go.
Fifteen kids were chosen to pilot a gigantic robot called “Zearth”. The first pilot was Kokopelli and their assistant is the magical Dung Beetle. Exciting, yes, but not anymore when their first pilot…
A manga involving kids that question morals and ethics and makes you wonder about life. Each of the kid’s story is very well done and I like how the author handled such a huge cast. While they may all look the same to you initially, once you get to know them, they are their own person, with their own struggles and stories to tell. I’m not going to ruin the big surprise of why it’s so dramatic to you. 😛 (But you’ve probably heard it already anyway.)
10. Shadow Star Narutaru
Shiina befriends a star-shaped monster which she named “Hoshimaru”. Turns out that Hoshimaru is actually a “Shadow Dragon” and there are other kids that have them as well. Shiina is then pulled into a battle where she would discover her true self…or be destroyed in the process.
Narutaru starts off looking like an adventure manga for kids. However, it gets darker and darker the further you got into the story. All of a sudden, there’s all this military and drama stuff in there and you’re just reading it making an OMG face the entire time. I quite like this manga, actually. It keeps me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The author does not hold back anything, so expect gore and abuse when you read.
9. Bitter Virgin
Popular guy Daisuke expresses no interest in the quiet girl Aikawa, but that all changes when he heard her confession in the church: she’s been abused and got pregnant twice. Hearing that, Daisuke grew concerned about her even though there are many obstacles lying ahead if they were ever to become friends.
I found this manga on the MAL forum, and I am glad I did. Even though the backstory may seem absurd to some, the author did really good portraying Aikawa. There are also some sub plot in the manga where the author wrote from her own experience which makes the overall read very interesting. Bitter Virgin is dark, but uplifting.
8. EDEN: it’s an endless world!
A sci-fi+action+drama manga that reflects on social issues such as drugs, violence, war and terrorism. After a deadly virus left the world crippled, a new organization overthrows the UN. Elijah Ballard, whose father is a drug lord of South America, found himself tangled in a plot that is bigger than himself.
EDEN has multiple subplot, all of which are very well done. They didn’t just stop in Japan or America like most do, but goes into the Middle East, South America, and Africa to explore their struggles. (I admire the efforts of the author to write Thai characters. If not for a missing vowel here and there, I would have never known he doesn’t know the language.) I don’t know how well the author researched the sci-fi part, but it was all very believable and rational I felt like I was reading an entertaining scientific article lol. Action sequences are all well done. The drama is a killer. This manga has the best self-sacrifice line in all of manga history, and you’ll have to read and discover what it is.
7. Higanbana no Saku Yoru Ni (The Unforgiving Flower Blossoms in the Dead of the Night)
Moriya Marie is abused by her classmates and a teacher. The first part of the manga follows her struggle to break free from the suffering inflicted onto her.
A quick google image search will give you an overview of what to expect. If you come to this manga for the drama, you can stop reading after the Marie’s story. To be frank, her story is so well-done every other one that follows pales in comparison. But if you like Miss Higanbana then go ahead and keep reading.
Based on the case of Furuta Junko. 17-years-old Sachiko was abducted, sexually abused, and tortured by other 17 years old boys. Her twin sister, Miki, searches for her. Caught between the two is Hiroki, who helps capture Sachiko but cannot bear the weight of his guilt but cannot disobey, or he himself will be the next victim.
Spoiler: I was so darn glad it didn’t end like the real thing. Ok, end of spoiler. 17-sai is actually softer than what happened in the real case, but the helplessness was very real. The art is so-so, but the author did good showing how an event that shouldn’t happen can happen. I read it all in one go so the clearest thing to me about this was how crushing this manga was.
Tomie is a gorgeous young lady (you can’t really tell from the picture, though) but everyone who meets her eventually wants to kill her and cut her to pieces. But after they did that, they were greeted by a hundred new Tomie who regenerated like a planaria.
If Tomie was any other episodic stuff I would have ranked it lower despite all the gore and creepiness of this manga. The last chapter ended Tomie’s tale with a bang, so I decided to rank it up this high. Same author as Uzumaki, as many of you probably know.
The setting is Europe, in the Middle Ages. St. Gotthard Pass was nicknamed “Wolfsmund”, the “Wolf’s Maw”. Anybody who tried to cross without a pass never made it back out alive.
I started reading when I was 13 and gave up after the second chapter. Even now, I’m proceeding through the manga at the speed of a snail. Wolfsmund is a cruel and tragic manga that shows us how cruel the Middle Ages could be. However, it’s lacking the deep themes that Vinland Saga has, so don’t expect any epic stories from this. Just people you care about dying over and over again.
3. Satogashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai (Sugar Candy Bullets Can’t Pierce Anything)
This is the third time the manga popped on my blog, and I know you must be tired already, but here goes. Mokuzu transferred to a small town, claiming that she is a mermaid and a storm is coming. If she doesn’t find a friend by then, she’ll die. So here is Nagisa, a girl who works to support her family. When a dreamer and a realist collide, they develop a strange friendship that ended up in them trying to find refuge from the dangers that lie close to Mokuzu.
If you’ve been following this blog, you would know how much I love the dark narration and pretty art of this manga. I read it all in one go and couldn’t stop my tears as more and more is revealed about the two. I think this is Sakuraba Kazuki at her very best.
2. Bradherley’s Coach
“For the Greater Good”…you would not feel good hearing this sentence. Girls from all over the country are recruited by Lord Bradherley to become actresses in his musical troop, but few actually made it on stage. Where did the rest of them go?
A fate worse than death, that’s what. Bradherley’s Coach is one of the cruelest and most depressing manga I have ever read. It tells stories of girls full of hope and dreams, and to see those hopes and dreams crushed in the most terrifying way is not for the weak-hearted.
1. Misu Misou
Haruka transferred to a new school set to close soon, and because it is closing down, nobody is willing to deal with bullying that happens all the damn time anyway. Because of the ignorance, the case grows and grows, and it’s only a matter of time when the actions of these bullies will become irreversible.
Gore. Expect a lot of gore and tales that will tear your heart apart and feed it to vultures. Misu Misou is not for the faint-hearted. This legendary manga made it to the top of my list for a reason.
That’s it. I may have missed a few good ones, so fill me in on that. Till next time!
(Recommendations I got so far, written here so I won’t forget: Hoozuki no Shima, Kousha no Ura ni wa Tenshi ga Umerareteiru)